South Africans across the country joined in a global show of solidarity by switching off their lights for an hour to highlight the problem of climate change.
This year saw 3,937 cities from 88 different countries participate in the effort. Participants were encouraged to sign up on the Earth Hour website where their names would join a petition that is to be presented to world leaders to push for further action in preventing and reversing climate change. They were then asked to turn their lights off on Saturday 28 March between the hours of 8:30 and 9:30pm as a visible show of support for the initiative.
Spectators were amazed to see spotlights being turned off at the Eiffel Tower, The Empire State Building, the Pyramids of Giza and our very own Table Mountain. Landmarks which are usual visible 24 hours a day were missing from their usual place in the skyline, this just highlighted how much we depend on electricity and how strange our world would be without it.
The race is on to find renewable earth friendly energy sources to replace the burning of fossil fuels which are fast running out and have done an untold amount of damage to our planet. Hopefully people will start to take the issue of climate change more seriously and more personally. It is not for someone else to fix these problems, our generation may not have started the process but we are going to have to be the ones to try and stop it before we pass the point of no return.
We are all trying to save as much money as possible these days and with the increasing emphasis on going Green and saving the environment from global warming people are looking for more ways to do their bit for the environment.
A very easy way to start is to plant a Waterwise garden that contains plants that require very little water, many of these plants will be indigenous. Indigenous plants are much preferred these days as they do not disrupt the natural balance already in place in a region as opposed to their foreign counterparts who have different needs and can effect the surrounding plants negatively.
Here is a list of Waterwise gardening tips to help you get started:
• Grow Waterwise plants – These are plants that need very little water to sustain themselves.
• Group plants according to their water needs – If you mix up plants that need different amounts of water you will waste water and perhaps over/under water some of them.
• Consider the quality and type of your lawn – Certain types of grass need more water than others, choose carefully.
• Maintain your garden – Remove any unwanted plants or weeds as soon as you spot them, they will use water that is intended for your other plants.
• Improve the soil and mulch – A garden with well maintained mulch retains water more efficiently.
• Plant in the right season – If you plant in the correct season your plant will need less maintenance in the beginning.
• Water correctly – Don’t water at the hottest time of day or when it is particularly windy, you will lose alot of moisture.
• The best irrigation system is drip irrigation – They require only a quarter of the amount of water other watering systems need and yield the same result.
Water conservation is going to be increasingly important in the years to come as the world begins to see the effects of dwindling natural resources. New innovations in water conservation, such as the waterless toilet, will provide alternatives to the current everyday uses we find for water and thereby put more pressure on people to be Waterwise and use less water.
Be ahead of the pack and plant your Waterwise garden sooner rather than later.
Everybody is always going on about going Green and saving the planet and lots of us are left wondering what we can do to show our support to the global effort to stop climate change.
Well on the 28th March at 8:30 we will all be given the opportunity to increase awareness of the problem of global warming and climate change. Every day the world burns millions of tons of fossil fuels to power everything from our homes to the cars we drive and the effects thereof are growing more evident everyday. Sea levels have risen and there have been temperature and climate changes across the globe which in the long term will effect ecosystems, animals and crop production. If left unchecked we will enter into a future where a major reshuffle will be on the cards. Will grain still grow here, will this species die out ;etc.
All you need to do to support this movement is switch your lights off for one hour.
Arrange a date with your partner at home that involves romance and candle light and enjoy the silence that will accompany having no T.V. on. Or arrange a Lights Out party and have all your friends come over to celebrate a unique event.
For more information go to www.earthhour.org.za or sms your postal code to 34017. This will sign you up and your name will added to a petition of a billion names that are going to be sent to the United Nations Climate Change conference in Copenhagen at the end of the year. The idea is to put more pressure on world leaders to pass legislation that will aim to reverse or limit further damage to the planet by climate change.
It will probably be something fun to share with friends, don’t view it as a punishment rather embrace it as a step toward extending the life of our planet.
Any keen gardener knows that there is sometimes just not enough rainfall for some plants they have in the garden. The logical thing to do when this happens is to just turn on the tap and compensate for the difference with purified municipal water.
But this is not always necessary, if you reuse your households gray water you will not only save money but you will also be doubling the waters usefulness.
The term gray water refers to waste water produced in the home excluding toilet water. This can be waste water generated by washing dishes, having a bath or shower, the washing machine or dishwasher. While this water may not be fit for drinking it can be utilised in other ways to extend it’s period of usefulness and save you money.
When starting out try and get an idea of how much gray water you will need on a daily or weekly basis and collect only that much. Dispose of any excess in the normal way by letting it go down the drain. Then give preference to water collected from your shower or bath as dishwater and water collected from the washing machine is less desirable because it will have more chemicals, grease and food particles in it. Dishwater and washing machine water can be used but for shorter periods of time as the contaminants they contain can eventually have some negative effects on your plants.
One should preferably not use gray water on edible plants because of the chance of diseases spreading through tiny particles of fecal matter contained in the shower or bath water. But if you do wish to use it on your vegetable garden use it only on plants where the edible area is above ground. Don’t use gray water on root vegetables like potatoes or leafy vegetables like lettuce because the chance of ingesting harmful bacteria will be higher.
Something to be aware of is the pH level of your garden when using gray water. Detergents and other chemicals contain alot of sodium based compounds which can effect your gardens pH level. Have your soil tested occasionally and if the pH level is above 7.5 it has become saturated with sodium. To counteract this you can treat your soil with calcium sulfate (gypsum) once a month. It should only be a problem if you need to use alot of water from the washing machine and dishwasher.
There are some very attractive storage containers available these days and you could even start a trend in your neighbourhood. Any time you can find a second use for something it is probably a good thing. Especially when it comes to something as important as water, the very thing that keeps us alive everyday.
Consumers who install solar water heating systems can from now on apply for a rebate from Eskom. Previously the supplier who installed the system was the one to apply for the rebate but that has been revised and now you as the consumer can apply for it.
The supplier you use to install your system does need to meet certain criteria for your system to qualify for a rebate:
- It needs to offer a 5 year guarantee
- Submit documents,including public liability and company details
- Have system tested at the SABS for the following: mechanical thermal safety
Government has set a target that by 2013 that at least 10 000 gigawatt hours of final energy consumption will be provided by renewable energy sources. Solar water heating is one of the most effective ways to implement this target and may be the leader for other practical renewable energy projects.
This rebate initiative is known as Eskom’s Solar Water Heating Programme and will hopefully encourage consumers to jump on the renewable energy bandwagon. The encouragement to implement renewable energy products only seems to be be increasing in popularity and as I have said before it will probably be in your best interest to be ahead of the masses and update your property now.
We are no longer living in a world where we can consume as much of our resources as we like without there being serious consequences. And major changes are sure to come at some point in the future, don’t be the one to get a nasty surprise at the end of the day.
For more information on Eskom’s Solar Water Heating Programme go to www.eskomdsm.co.za
Innovation is not something that can be demanded or predicted, that is what makes it all the more attention grabbing when it happens. An inventor, Richard Kgwahla, has come up with an idea to prolong the life of mud houses.
He has invented a building material for these mud houses that is stackable and and acts as a barrier that protects the mud from becoming water logged and washing away when it rains.This is not the only thing Mr Kgwahla has invented, he holds the record for winning the most awards from the SABS for design/prototype by a black inventor.
Amongst his other inventions are a wheelbarrow that can convert into a chair that can be used to transport sick or elderly people from rural areas to receive medical attention or just within the community. He has also designed a table top for trolleys that is intended for use by sidewalk hawkers to enable them to sell and display their goods in an easier way.
Using mud as a construction material is an eons old technique that has been found throughout the world and countless civilizations. It may sound like a step back but with all the hoopla these days about going Green it may be something to consider.
The construction is extremely inexpensive as it utilises naturally occurring materials such as soil and discarded natural fibres that aid in the bonding process, and then of course water. They can be built in many different ways and are usually comfortable all year round, cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Mr Kgwahla has developed something that may aid many people who need to improve their living situation, the South African government has a huge backlog when it comes to providing housing and services to poor communities. Many of the government housing projects already built have a terrible reputation and have been built with substandard materials that make the homes unsafe to live in. These failed projects are then certainly a great waste of money besides prolonging the indignity of the very people they are supposed to uplift.
Hopefully we see more innovative people emerging in the future, it can only be a good thing.
What do you think? Should mud houses even be considered?
We are all hearing about Green this and Green that, but how will it affect us and how can we implement these changes effectively in our homes? Here are some tips on how to go Green.
- One tip we are all aware of is to install solar panels on our home instead of relying on Eskom and the coal burning that they practice. They may seem expensive to install but they should pay for themselves over the years.
- Don’t waste water! This means fix all your leaky taps and pipes.More water is lost by a slowly dripping tap than you would think. Some people will go so far as to advise you to urinate outside in your garden so as to save water by not flushing the toilet. But I think very few people would actually go that far.
- Choose finishes in your home carefully. Bamboo grows incredibly fast and is easily renewable. Many homeowners and designers are using it alot as flooring because of this and it is actually pretty fashionable at the moment. Don’t choose rare woods or species that take hundreds of years to grow
- Select carpeting that is made from natural fibres, like cotton or wool, that have not been chemically treated by things like pesticides.
- Insulate your geyser to decrease your electricity consumption.
- Plant water wise plants in your garden instead of those that need alot of water. Also choose to plant indigenous species instead of alien species from other countries. Plants that evolved for our climate should be easier to maintain and they usually use less water.
If we start building these ideas into homes from the beginning rather than ripping out all the old stuff and installing new eco-friendly products it will be easier to live with. It is a new era where we are encouraged to think about how every action we take and every product we buy is going to effect future generations.
Many of us may feel as though we don’t have a choice in the matter and all this Green stuff is a bunch of nonsense, but if we make a decision to accept that change does happen and that we don’t want to be left behind it may make the transition easier.
Every cent counts these days and we are all looking for ways to streamline our monthly expenditure. It sounds a bit extreme but you should consider seriously monitoring your electricity consumption, there are more price increases expected in the future and you will do yourself a favour by getting on the ‘electricity saving bandwagon’ early.
Here are some great tips:
- Adjust your geyser temperature to about 55 degrees as this is closer to the temperature most people actually require to bath or do dishes. You will add less cold water and you will save money by not having the geyser heat up to an excessive temperature.
- Close the doors and windows when using a heater, fan or aircon as this will allow you to regulate the room temperature more effectively.( However if your heater is gas powered do take care when using them as they often require that the room be adequately ventilated to ensure safe use. Always check the manufacturers specifications.)
- Switch off any unnecessary lights or appliances as they waste money and electricity. Standby mode is apparently not good enough either so unplug them to be on the safe side.
- Skip the pre-wash cycle on your washing machine if your clothes are not that dirty. Then use the right temperature setting for the right clothes. Don’t wash things at 40 degrees if they require a cold wash, this will spare your clothes and your money.
- Limit the use of your tumbledryer where possible. Most clothes and fabrics do very well when merely hung out to dry. Heat generating appliances seem to use the most electricity so use them sparingly.
- Boil only the amount of water in the kettle that you will actually be needing. this should get your kettle to boil a bit faster and you will save electricity.
- Switch to energy saving light bulbs, they last longer and save electricity. (Some of these bulbs may contain chemicals so check the packaging for how to dispose of these bulbs safely when they eventually wear out.)
Hopefully these tips will help you save a bit of money now and make any major future transitions easier, an extreme example would be electricity rationing in residential areas. Be prepared and practised at saving electricity as we may need it more in the future.
I have always had a fascination with skylights and how lovely they make a room feel and look. They are not always ideal in South Africa as some people report that a skylight increases the temperature in room quiet alot, something that is not always pleasant in our warm climate. However if you choose the room carefully it could create a wonderfully cosy atmosphere that is bright and welcoming.
A skylight is an overhead window specifically designed to allow more light into a room that doesn’t get enough sunlight from conventional windows. They are usually covered in a translucent material that provides privacy but allows light to pass through.
They are designed in many various shapes and sizes and are a wonderful way to express a design idea. If you are designing your home in a very modern manner then perhaps a very plain square design would be best, alternatively if you swing more to the art deco side of design you could incorporate elements of the beautiful architechtural structure central to this theme.
Before you jump in and pay thousands for installing the wrong kind of skylight call a professional and have them evaluate the room you have in mind. They will be able to listen to your expectations and advise you on the best way forward. It is important to get an experienced professional to quote and install because the way the window faces will effect the outcome greatly.
If you imagined it would bring some extra warmth into a space and was then installed facing in the wrong direction you will be sorely disappointed. Room size also plays a big role in selecting the right skylight. It needs to be proportional to the space it’s in so that it doesn’t allow to much or little heat and light in.
So if you feel you want a skylight in your property it will certainly be a talking point for years to come, and if installed correctly could also increase the value of your home. Green building is becoming more and more encouraged and something as lovely as a skylight will allow you to save on some heating and lighting costs.
The University of Johannesburg and Johannesburg Water have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that is the first step toward the two parties launching a collaborative effort to research and develop new technologies in the area of water and sanitation.
Of course there is currently alot of interest in the water quality of South Africa with the recent cholera outbreaks across the country, many experts believe the outbreak is due to South Africa’s own poor water quality and not because of infected Zimbabweans bringing it across the border.
What may surprise some readers is that one important area of research will be water nano-technology, advancements in this area will help improve waste water treatment and water quality assessment.
Millions of people in South Africa still do not have access to clean drinking water, even though it is the constitutional right of all South Africans to have access to sufficient water. It is definitely an area that deserves further research.